Are Ramadan's endless queues for desserts and sweets finally over? Not quite. Eid Al-Fitr, or the 'small feast' as Egyptians refer to it, starts a few days before its official date. Streets are transformed into a hunting ground for new clothes, at least one big plate of cookies for every coffee table, and the terrible noise of fire crackers in the background.
Eid cookies were more of a Fatimid tradition, according to Ahmed Mahfouz's book Khabaya Al-Qahera (Secrets of Cairo/Dar El-Shorouk 2008). First published in 1958, the book portrays the social history of Cairo, explaining that Eid cookies had a government body dedicated to baking them and distributing them among the public.
Eid Al-Fitr 1955
Dar El-Fetra, where 100 bakers were working hard. On the first day of Eid, people would march in celebration until they reached Bab El-Nasr. Then following Eid morning prayers, the state would distribute the cookies. Little has changed since then, well only the hands that bake.
Eid Al-Fitr 1963
Over the centuries, lots of private bakeries opened their doors to hand made cookies set neatly in black metal trays, balanced on top of women's heads, waiting for their turn to be baked. However, the act of making and shaping the cookies is a celebration in itself. Women mix flour with water, butter, and the famous Kahk extract (cookie scent), among funny stories and giggles as they work in the family kitchen.
Eid Al-Fitr 1943
Eid Al-Fitr 1944
Maybe the baking time is no longer in fashion, as lots of people buy ready made cookies; but the fact remains: Nothing beats the joy and warmth that fresh cookies bring on Eid morning.
Eid Al-Fitr 1941
Happy Eid people!
Photos Courtesy of Ahram Digital Archive